Letters for Wednesday • May 31, 2006

• Halt the Inquisition

• The play for public opinion

• Vacation rental problems, easy solution

Halt the Inquisition

There are areas of the county code and charter that are written to prevent self-dealing by those in authority. In other words, one should not use one’s position of elected or appointed office to benefit themselves monetarily, such as rigging a scope of services so only you or your friend’s private company wins the bid. We all understand that conflict of interest for those in a decision-making position should be prevented.

However, this implies the one who is in the position has the power to actually do the rigging. In this case, (The Garden Island, Council: Sanction Venneman, May 27) Officer Venneman was not in authority to hire the police chief when he solicited opinions as a patrolman. All he was doing was expressing his opinion and advocating others to express their opinions. This does not violate the intent of the charter or code.

Sophistry is an argument or option which is clever and plausible, but false and misleading. This is a dangerous game that the county is engaged in, and it is damaging people’s lives and reputations.

Sophistry takes its name from the sophists of ancient Athens. It was the principal instrument which they used first to discredit, then to imprison, and finally to execute Socrates. It was big in the middle ages with the Inquisition and the burning of witches. It flourishes today in Kauai County.

The county charter and code are being used inappropriately as a premise to engage in a vendetta against all those who dare challenge the political will of those in power. It is turning into an Inquisition that serves only to keep the sophists employed.

Who is next?

  • Carol Bain

The play for public opinion

With the Council serving as spin masters, county officials are trying to persuade the court of public opinion before election time that four police commissioners who selected K.C. Lum as police chief violated the ethics code by rigging the selection process, thereby justifying the punitive actions decreed by county officials.

To date, they have left open the question as to whether two of the commissioners were co-conspirators or merely dupes in the selection process.

In addition, in complete disregard of his record and experience, Harold (Ron) Venneman has been convicted of circulating a petition in support of Lum in exchange for Lum then appointing him as deputy chief. To attribute Venneman’s support for Lum to sheer petty ambition is demeaning and reveals more about the motives of his accusers than it reveals about his motives.

This two-pronged conspiracy theory is riddled with too many holes to allow a point-by-point refutation in a letter to the Forum.

Officials have carefully avoided the word “conspiracy,” but the word accurately describes what is being spun in the court of public opinion. They presumably avoid the word because it requires proof, not just the insinuations they rely upon so heavily.

I will limit my remarks to two points that arise if, only for purposes of discussion, we accept officialdom’s conspiracy theory.

First, the mayor appoints and may remove police commissioners, with council approval. Mayor and council are not required by law to justify the appointment or removal of a commissioner. All that is required for appointment or removal is that mayor and council agree.

If the commissioners were guilty of rigging the selection process, what does their dereliction reveal about the elected officials who appointed them and who failed to remove them before they completed their alleged ethically flawed selection process?

Second, the charter authorizes the mayor to take part in all proceedings of the Police Commission, with voice but no vote. By allowing the mayor to participate, the charter affirms his role as executive head and supervisor of the administration with the specific responsibility of seeing to it that all administrative activities are conducted “honestly, efficiently and lawfully” (Section 7.05A). By denying the mayor a vote, the charter affirms the state law designed to exclude politicians from appointing the police chief or otherwise controlling the department.

If the police commissioners and Ron Venneman are guilty as charged, where was the mayor when the conspiracy was unfolding in meetings of the commission? The mayor, council, and Board of Ethics are all charged with enforcing the code of ethics, but only the mayor has free access to meetings of the Police Commission. Was the mayor present and did he instruct, warn, or object when, for example, the commission accepted Venneman’s petition or when other alleged ethical violations occurred? If not, why not?

Where does the failure of elected officials to exercise their responsibility for oversight figure in the world view of the Board of Ethics and their legal adviser, the county attorney?

  • Horace Stoessel

Vacation rental problems, easy solution

Here’s something novel. Why doesn’t the county simply enforce the existing zoning ordinance?

It reads, Vacation Rentals are allowed only in those areas designated “resort or visitors destination.” The reason for this zoning was specific — to keep residential neighborhoods just that.

Look at some of the results of non-enforcement. Affordable rentals for locals are non-existent. Long-term residents are leaving in droves. Families are finding themselves living on the streets. There are presently three areas with this zoning — Po‘ipu, Princeville and the ‘makai’ or ocean side of the highway between Wailua and Kapa‘a with the exception of Coco Palms.

VR’s anywhere else are illegal.

VR’s are a multi-million dollar business. Most VR owners are non-resident, real estate investors who do not concern themselves with the lives of locals, nor do they contribute to the community in any way. Any benefits for Kaua‘i are minimal compared to the millions that leave the state. Most VR owners do not pay the 9 percent “Transient or Hotel Tax.”

Most don’t even claim the income.

Most real estate management companies know that they are engaged in an illegal activity that is really no different than drug trafficking. So neighbors, if you want to see this problem go away, report this “illegal activity” to the police and complain loudly to the planning department, County Council etc. If the county starts handing out “non-conforming use certificates,” what’s next?

Let’s all start raising pigs in our backyards or turn our single family residences into apartment complexes and then ask for “non-conforming use certificates.”

Yes, the visitor industry is important to Kaua‘i, but where do we draw the line? I say here and now on this issue.

  • Brian Schoen

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